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Ab aaterno vas provisum, Vas insigne, vas excisum Maim Sapientiae.
Salve Verbi sacra Parens, Flos de spinis, spina carens,
Flos spineti gratia.
Nos spinetum, nos pec-
Spina sumus cruentati,
Cella custos unguentorum,
Cinnamomi calamum, Myrrham, thus et balsamum, Superas fragrantia.
Salve, decus virginum,
Tu convallis humilis,
Flos campi, convallium Singulare lilium: Chnstus ex te prodiit.
Tu coelestis paradisus, Libanusque non incisus, Vaporans dulcedinem.
Tu candoris et decoris, Tu dulcoris et odoris Habes plenitudinem.
Tu thronus es Solomonis, Cui nullus par in thronis, Arte vel materia.
Ebur candens, castitatis, Aurum fulvum, charitatis Praesignant mysteria.
Vessel predestined from eternity, Vessel of singular beauty, Vessel formed by the hand of the All-Wise One.
Hail, holy Mother of the Word ! the Flower that grew midst thorns, thyself the thornless Flower, that decked the thorny Earth.
The thorny earth are we, bleeding from the prickly thorns of sin: and thou, Oh! thou art free from thorns.
Thou art the Gate of the sanctuary closed for the Prince. Thou art the Fountain of the gardens, the Casket of sweet ointments and perfumes.
Thy fragrance is sweeter than that of Cinnamon, or Myrrh, or Frankincense, or aromatic Balm.
Hail, Virgin of Virgins! Mediatrix of men! Mother of the Jesus who saved us.
Myrtle of temperance, Rose of patience, Spikenard most fragrant!
Vale of humility! Soil most fruitful, though untilled!
Flower of the field! matchless Lily of the valley, that broughtest forth Christ!
Heavenly Paradise! Cedartree untouched, yet breathing forth such sweetness!
Purity and beauty, sweetness and fragrance, are all in thee above measure.
Thou art the Throne of Solomon, the throne rich above all others in form and substance.
The whiteness of the Ivory prefigures thy Chastity; the glittering Gold, thy Charity.
The palm thou holdest is like no other: thou hast no equal among creatures on earth or in heaven.
Thou art the glory of the human race, and art privileged with virtues above Angels and men.
As the sun is brighter than the moon, and the moon is brighter than the stars: so is Mary exalted above all creatures.
The sun's light, which no eclipse quenches, is Mary's virginal purity: the sun's unfailing heat, is her undying charity.
Hail, Mother of Mercy! Thou art the noble dwelling of the blessed Trinity;
But, for the majesty of the Incarnate Word, thou didst prepare a special sanctuary.
O Mary, Star of the Sea! Peerless Queen, set above all the heavenly choirs!
Seated on thy lofty throne, commend us to thy Son ; nor suffer our enemies to defeat us by strength or craft.
In the battle we are fighting, may we be safely shielded by thy protection. Our enemy's obstinacy and skill must needs yield to thy power, and his treachery to thy watchful care.
O Jesu! Word of the Eternal Father! save us the devoted servants of thy Mother. We are guilty, absolve us Save us by thy grace, and make us like to thee in the brightness of thy glory.
Palmam praefers singularem,
Nec in terris habes parem, Nec in coeli curia.
Laus humani generis, Virtutum prae caeteris Habens privilegia.
Sol luna lucidior, Et luna sideribus: Sic Maria dignior Creaturis omnibus.
Lux eclipsim nesciens Virginis est castitas; Ardor indeficiens, Immortalis charitas.
Salve, mater pietatis, Et totius Trinitatis Nobile triclinium.
Verbi tamen incarnati Speciale majestati Praeparans hospitium.
O Maria, stella maris,
In supremo sita poli,
In procinctu constituti,
Jesu, Verbum summi Pa-
Serva servos tuae Matris,
THE FIRST MARTYR.
Yesterday, we finished the Octave of the Birth of Jesus; to-day, we shall finish the Octave of St. Stephen; but this, without losing sight, one moment, of the Divine Babe, whose Court is formed by Stephen, JJohn the Beloved Disciple, the Holy Innocents, and St. Thomas of Canterbury. In five days, we shall see the Magi prostrate before the Crib of the newborn King; they are already on the way, and the Star is advancing towards Bethlehem. Let us spend the interval in reconsidering how great is the glory of our Emmanuel, in his having lavished such extraordinary favours on these Saints, whom he has chosen to be near him at his first coming into the world. Let us begin with Stephen, for this is the last day of the Octave dedicated to him by the Church. We must take leave of him now till the month of August, when we shall again meet him on the Feast of The Finding of his Relics.
In a Sermon, which was for a long time thought to have been written by St. Augustine, we find it mentioned, that St. Stephen was in the flower of his youth, when he was called, by the Apostles, to receive the sacred character of Deaconship. Six others were ordained Deacons with him; and these Seven, whose office was to minister at the Altar here below, represented the Seven Angels, whom St. John saw standing near the Altar in heaven. Stephen was appointed as the head of the Seven, and St. Irenaaus, who lived in the second century, calls him the ArchDeacon.
The characteristic virtue of a Deacon is fidelity. Hence, he is entrusted with the care of the treasures of the Church, treasures, which consist not merely in the alms destined for the poor, but in that which is the most precious thing in heaven'and earth—the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ, of which the Deacon is the minister, in virtue of his Order. For this reason, the Apostle St. Paul, in his first Epistle to Timothy, bids the Deacons hold the Mystery of Faith in a "pure conscience.1
It was, therefore, more than an appropriate co-incidence, that the First of all the Martyrs was a Deacon, for Martyrdom is the great proof of fidelity, and fidelity is the official virtue of the Deaconate. This same truth is still more strongly impressed upon us by the fact, that the three, who stand pre-eminent amongst the Martyrs of Christ, are vested in the holy Dalmatic—the three glorious Deacons: Stephen, the glory of Jerusalem; Laurence, the pride of Rome; and Vincent, of whom Spain so justly boasts. The present holy season gives us Stephen, who has been gladdening us with his festal presence ever since Christmas Day, and Vincent, whose Feast falls on January 22nd. Laurence will come to us, with his rich waving Palm, in the sunny month of August; and Stephen, in the same month, will visit us, a second time, in the Feast of the Finding of his Relics.
With the intention of paying respect to the Holy Order of Deaconship in the person of its first representative, it is a custom in a great many Churches, on the Feast of St. Stephen, that Deacons should fulfil every office, which is not beyond their Order.
1 L Tim. iii. 9.
For example, the Chanter yields his staff of office to a Deacon; the Choristers, who assist the Chanter, are also Deacons, vested in Dalmatics; and the Epistle of the Mass is sung by a Deacon, because it is the passage from the Acts of the Apostles, which relates the history of the holy Martyr's death.
The institution of St. Stephen's Feast, and its being fixed on the day immediately following that of our Lord's Birth, are so ancient, that it is impossible to assign their date. The Apostolic Constitutions, which were compiled, at the latest, towards the close of the 3rd century, mention this Feast as already established, and that, too, on the morrow of Christmas Day. St. Gregory of Nyssa, and St. Asterius of Amasea, both of them earlier than the miraculous discovery of the Holy Deacon's Relics, have left us Homilies for the Feast of St. Stephen, in which they lay stress on the circumstance of its having the honour to be kept the very day after the solemnity of Christmas. With regard to its Octave, the institution is less ancient, though the date cannot be defined. Amalarius, who wrote in the 9th century, speaks of this Octave as already established, and Notker's Martyrology, compiled in the 10th century, makes express mention of it.
But, how comes it, that the Feast of a mere Deacon has been thus honoured, whilst almost all those of the Apostles have no Octave? The rule followed by the Church, in her Liturgy, is to give more or less solemnity to the Feasts of the Saints, according to the importance of the services they rendered to mankind. Thus it is, that the honour she pays to St. Jerome, for example, who was only a Priest, is more marked than that she gives to a great number of holy Popes. It is her gratitude, which guides her in assigning to the Saints their respective rank in her Calendar, and the devotion of the Faithful to the saintly benefactors, whom she now venerates as